The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

#13: Belle Cubano – Belle

The Cuban

A great chef knows to tread carefully with a classic dish. Invoking a classic’s name on a menu can create expectations that risk leaving some disappointed by even slight deviations.

Belle’s John Shanesy is a great chef. And his riff on a Cuban sandwich is outstanding. In hotspots like Miami and Tampa Bay, where the sandwich dates back more than a century, there are strong opinions about what belongs on it, or, more importantly, what does not. Traditional ingredients include roast pork, ham (sometimes salami), Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles, and yellow mustard, pressed on Cuban bread.

Shanesy’s recipe tracks these fairly closely, but with a chef’s attention to detail, and only carefully considered deviations. For the pork, instead of the standard roast, Shanesy braises Autumn Olive Farms pork shoulder overnight, in salt, water, and the pork’s own fat, and throws in pig feet and skin as well to ramp up the swine flavor. The next day, he pulls the meat and cools it. Shanesy’s ham choice is prosciutto cotto for its ability to retain flavor and texture whether served hot or cold. The bread is his brother’s sourdough hoagie rolls made with Autumn Olive Farms cornmeal and local Deep Roots flour, which he fries on both sides in butter until crisp, and then smears on mustard and mayo. For assembly, he sears the braised pork and piles it on the bread with the prosciutto cotto, Alsatian Gruyere, and a generous handful of house-made pickle slices. Finally, there is Shanesy’s main tweak to the standard recipe: a salsa verde he makes from chopped herbs, jalapeños, fresh squeezed orange juice, apple vinegar, and oil, which adds flavor and offsets the sandwich’s richness, without upsetting its underlying appeal. The verdict? Spot-on.

#13: Belle Cubano – Belle
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Cuban Pickle Crisis at Ivy Provisions, El Cubano at Guajiros, Ace Cuban at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

#14: Adana Kebab Sandwich on Pita, with Yogurt Sauce – Sultan Kebab

The Kebab Sandwich

It speaks volumes about the excellence and growth of our food scene that this was once my favorite sandwich in Charlottesville. It’s not that the sandwich has dropped in quality. Not at all. Since opening in 2012, Sultan Kebab has been a model of consistency, never offering something that does not meet the high standards of the restaurant’s two owners.

Those owners hail from two different regions of Turkey – Izmir and Adana – and Sultan Kebab’s food draws on both. The Adana kebab is ground beef marinated with fresh red peppers, red pepper paste and paprika, and then shaped along an iron skewer, and grilled over an open flame. For the sandwich, they wrap the long kebab in lavash bread, along with lettuce, tomato, and onion. While excellent, even better is substituting the lavash with Sultan Kebab’s house baked pita bread – soft, fresh, and delicious – and adding yogurt sauce. No matter how much Charlottesville’s food community grows, this sandwich would always be worthy of the area’s best.

#14: Adana Kebab Sandwich on Pita – Sultan Kebab
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Kafta Manousheh at Thyme & Co., Chicken Khati Roll at Kanak, Kibbeh Flatbread Wrap at Sticks, Souvlaki Pita at Tip Top. Vegetarian Alternatives: Vegetable Manousheh at Thyme & Co., Paneer Khati Roll at Kanak, Vegetarian Sandwich at Sultan Kebab

#15: Breakfast Sandwich #1 on English Muffin – Belle

The Breakfast Sandwich

A day just feels different when it begins with a great breakfast sandwich. Fortunately, Charlottesville has no shortage of them, especially at Belle, the Belmont bakery and café run by the Shanesy brothers: chef John and baker Scott.

There are six numbered breakfast sandwiches at Belle, all delicious, but the most satisfying is the first: Breakfast Sandwich #1. Folded egg topped with a sausage patty and a slice of melting American cheese. As listed on the menu, the sandwich comes on house brioche, which is delicious. It’s baked by Scott Shanesy, after all. But, the sandwich reaches even greater heights on the bakery’s English muffin, which Belle calls “the house specialty.” Yes, it’s special. Like a sausage egg McMuffin on steroids, there’s no more delicious way to power up the day.

#15: Breakfast Sandwich #1 on English Muffin – Belle
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Troutlandish at Chickadee, Southern Breakfast Sausage Biscuit at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, Sausage, Egg, & Cheese on English Muffin at Grit, Morning Melt with Kimchi on a Za’atar Croissant at Bowerbird Bakeshop, Hangover Cure at Multiverse Kitchens, Madame Guillotine at ooey, gooey, crispy (GFA), Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit at Timberlakes Soda Fountain, Egg & Gruyere, with sausage on a baguette at MarieBette, Sausage, Egg, & Cheese on an English Muffin at The Food Bar. Vegan Alternatives: Signor Sunshine at ooey, gooey, crispy (GFA)

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